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Editorial
World Radio Zone

The demise of American radio

As you may know Radio has been around for most of the 20th century with the first great AM stations going on the air in the very early 1920's.  The first were stations such as KDKA Pittsburg and WLW in Cincinnati.  The medium spread quickly and soon each large city in the US had one high wattage or clear channel AM with more lower powered stations to follow.  KDKA and WLW are examples of clear channel stations and at one point before World War II WLW had an experimental license to broadcast at 500,000 watts and could be heard in Europe (See the radio history page)  During World War II the US Government turned back the wattage of clear channel stations to 50,000 watts and soon the Border Blasters, high powered Mexican stations owned by Americans that broadcast to the US in English from accross the border, sprung up (again, see the radio history page).  In the late 50's and early 60's, FM stations were licensed and the FM band mainly contained religious, jazz and classical music stations.
 
Move ahead to the late 60's and early 70's. Something happened!  Auto manufacturers started producing autos with AM AND FM radios and car stereo shops started selling AM/FM/8-track combos!  FM became more valuable and suddenly Rock and Country music could be heard on the FM dial.  FM stereo had a much better quality than AM and it wasn't but another 15 years that almost all music stations had moved to the FM dial and AM owners didn't really know what to do with their AM properties.  Hence, talk radio (mainly right-wing Conservative) took over the AM band.  Since the early 90's when Newt Gingrich and the Neo-Cons gained power in the US, and the Republican Party changed forever, they have taken a foothold on the AM dial.  The only talk radio with an opposing slant at this time seems to be PBS and a fledgling network called Air America.  PBS may also be moving more to the right as the current President will be making new appointments to Board of the Foundation for Public Broadcasting.  Air America has been gaining stations and listeners on a steady basis during their first year but still have a long way to go.
 
A few years ago, at the end of the Clinton Administration, something again happened.  The FCC again changed the rules making it possible to own numerous AM and FM stations in each market.  A handful of large Media companies began gobbling up all the FM and AM properties in the US, buying out all the Mom & Pop and small owner operations. Nationwide consultants played a bigger part in programming the music for these companies, hence, you have the same stale sounding music stations up and down the FM dial, city to city and region to region.  The AM dial is filled with Right-Wing Wackos and small town radio is mainly automated.  The only real creativity you can find on radio now is the occaisional college or community radio station.
 
This web-site was born to provide an alternative to the AM/FM dial.  It is a simple philosophy.  Provide variety and creativity for the listener.  At this point in time one can only wonder.  Is the demise of AM and FM at hand?  With I-PODS, Downloading, Satelite Radio available in home and cars (even offering local news and traffic), internet stations and low power Part 15 AM & FM broadcasters (microcasters) building stations it will be much more difficult for broadcasters to make a profit unless they find a way to be more creative and try new things, which at this point they seem to be afraid to do.  Granted AM/FM are still free but more and more people are seeking out the new methods of listening to music.  Even Howard Stern is leaving the radio for the Satelite.  Some may say "Goodbye and Good Ridance" but millions of listeners will follow him right over to Satelite radio and they will discover all of those other Satelite channels too!
 
It's time for the broadcasting industry, especially FM radio, to wake up and reinvent itself or find itself broke and in the dark.
 
Peter Kraushaar
 
Note: Peter M Kraushaar AKA Pete Michaels, has been a radio programmer and radio station owner with a career spanning 4 decades.  Reach him at kbfdradio@hotmail.com

Kraushaar Media, Vancouver WA

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